Barbecoa Review by The British BBQ Society
by Toby Shea
British BBQ Society Review Barbecoa – Jamie Oliver & Adam Perry Lang
I had no idea what to expect of Barbecoa, the new BBQ restaurant opposite St Pauls Cathedral, a collaboration between Jamie Oliver and Adam Perry Lang. A passion of mine for many years, everything cooked over charcoal and wood, this seemed to be too good to be true.
It’s a basic premise which seems maybe a little at odds with the chic décor – darkened floors, low lighting, located within the glitzy new shopping centre at New Change. You see, smoking, flame grilling, barbecueing are techniques which everyone can try. A few weekends of good weather in the summer and across the land men wheel out their smokers or grills and get in touch with their inner caveman by cooking meat with fire and perhaps releasing their inner Jamie Oliver too.
The first impression of what to expect was the Barbecoa butcher on the ground level, they had a fantastic display of well hung meat. The concept of customers being able to view inside the cool room from outside would catch any passers-by eye and certainly drew me in.
At the entrance of Barbecoa we were greeted at the door with a warm welcome shown to the cloakroom and then to the bar. Our table was ready on time and we were given a summary of each cooker in the kitchen through their viewing window. With 4 hungry mouths to feed we were looking forward to a selection of the menu.
CRISPY PIG CHEEKS (with autumn piccalilli, chive and lamb’s lettuce salad.
One of the party was desperate to try this, Masterchef aficionado that he is. Well cooked and tasty. General consensus is that it was a bit greasy but that is probably the norm for this cut and in any event any doubts were blasted away by the hot, spicy and generally fabulous piccalilli which had the unexpected effect of sparking a lively conversation about chutney. An unexpected pleasure.
CHARRED HOT WINGS (watermelon, rice noodles, mint, ginger and chilli).
A must for any barbecue enthusiast these come as a starter. The writer’s anticipation was spoiled initially by what may be a mouthful of unexpectedly potent mint leaf which drowned the flavour of anything else. The initial shock of unexpected garnish passed, however, and was happily replaced by the subsequent pleasure of well cooked chicken falling easily off the bone.
BABY BACK RIBS (crunchy apple, coriander lime salad)
Another barbecue stalwart served on a wooden base as if to emphasise the woody smoked quality you would expect from the dish. And yet, the ribs were smoked to the point of bitterness and it proved terribly hard to prise off the meat without gnawing rather inelegantly at the bone itself (an experience rather contrasting with the nature of the venue). The coriander lime salad was pleasant, rather reminiscent of the lime pickle chutney favoured in indian restaurants but overall this was a disappointing dish.
CRAB CAKE (blackened tomato and chilli salsa, yuzu lime mayonnaise)
From the disappointing ribs to the near sublime. In appearance the dish was an innovative scotch egg shape with the mayonnaise in place of a hard boiled yoke. The crab was marvellous to taste and a joy. The highlight of the starters for sure.
Four chunky men in a restaurant need plenty of food and so the GRAND SELECTION FOR TWO appealed with three other mains. We had to have this as an intervening course before the hot mains owing to, frankly, the size of the table and at the suggestion of the very helpful and attentive waiting staff. With finishing touches by Jamie and Adam themselves no less the selection of fruits de mer looked and tasted marvellous. With a combination of crab claws, lobster, prawns, scallops ceviche, crayfish, cockles, mussels, rock oysters and native oysters, an icy tasty and messy dish much enjoyed by all.
LAMB SKEWERS (marinated mixed cuts of lamb, polenta, girolles, marjoram & gorgonzola)
Opinion was split on this dish. A deconstructed kebab skewer of assorted lamb cuts and a large white pureed base. Cooked rare, it was not to everyone’s taste but much approved of by the majority and would certainly be my choice when I return. A couple of minor points (kidney not cleared out properly) did not detract from what was considered a fine dish.
SHORT BEEF RIB (barrel aged Worcestershire glaze, irish champ)
Depending on your point of view the dish looked blackened to a cinder or superbly smoked and barbecued. The beef was moist and tender and fell off the bone while the glaze was rich and pleasant. The irish champ was rather meagre which was a pity. However, even our hardened barbecue expert enjoyed the meat.
PULLED SHOULDER OF PORK (slaw, sticky rice, gem lettuce and cracklings)
Another favourite of the experienced American barbecue technician and a mainstay of competition barbecuing this dish was served with a mixture of lettuce leaves, sticky rice and an inventive and tangy dry coleslaw. This was another enjoyable dish, moist and perfectly cooked, unfortunately it lacked flavour, a little kick or sweetness in the sauce would transform the dish.
We all knew at this point that we had eaten more than enough but having seen a few desserts being taken to other tables we couldn’t resist, we opted for the crème brulee, cheesecake, chocolate nemesis (wow) and a cheese board, and then really had to call it a day.
In summary, I had no idea what to expect, whenever someone mentions a BBQ restaurant I shiver. “Please let it be good”. Some of us work far too hard promoting this style of cooking and often see it go mainstream and mistakes made at every level. Would I go back? Absolutely, Jamie and Adam have created something very special, a true collaboration of cooking styles over wood and charcoal. You may read the summary of each dish and be unsure, Barbecoa had been open for just a few days prior to our visit, it was a pleasure to see both Adam and Jamie working in the kitchen conscious of the challenge that lay ahead of them combining so many cooking styles and very aware of a few very small issues that I am certain will be ironed out in the coming weeks. My main problem, how to organise a Christmas party when it is almost fully booked!!
British BBQ Society
Very Jealous.. My only consolation is that I am hoping to get to Vegas in a few months and go to CarneEvino that restuarant Adam Perry Lang is partners in with Mario Batali and Joe Bastinach.